By Faye M Smith
Knowing how to fall asleep faster could be game-changing if you’re someone who lies awake tossing and turning for hours. After all, there’s no worse feeling than watching the clock tick nearer to your wake-up time, aware that you still haven’t drifted off.
Whether that's from an uncomfortable sleep set-up (see our guide to the best pillows if you're looking for an upgrade), or because you're still wired from the day—you're not alone. Nearly half of us miss out on shut-eye as a result of worry and our busy lifestyles, according to statistics from The Great British Bedtime Report. And it’s having a huge impact on our health.
“Sleep is by far one of the most important factors for someone’s wellbeing,” says expert Penny Weston from MADE. “If you haven’t had enough sleep it can affect your metabolism, which can lead to weight gain. Plus, it will affect your concentration, making you less productive, and it can also leave you feeling negative and easily agitated. Sleep deprivation can also be the cause of serious illnesses.”
But fear not, there are plenty of techniques when it comes to knowing how to fall asleep easier and how to sleep better.
How to fall asleep fast
Forget counting sheep. If you’re struggling to drift off, here are five ways to speed up your bedtime wind down and catch that all-important Zzzs.
1. Breathing meditation for sleep
Knowing how to fall asleep when you're anxious or stressed can feel impossible. This stress might also lead to sleep anxiety and the start of a cycle of poor sleep. If you toss and turn a lot in the night, it could also cause sleep divorce between you and your partner. Luckily, there is an easy solution that should have you drifting off within minutes. Enter—breathing meditations for sleep.
Controlling your breathing can cause the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to drop, which deactivates the stress cycle and calms both your body and mind.
“Breathing techniques can help release deep emotional blockages,” says breath coach Stuart Sandeman, founder of Breathpod. “It can give you a stronger connection to self, deeper relaxation and clear any feelings of lack and limitation. This technique will help to slow the mind so that you can nod off to sleep.”
If you have time, listen to sleep-guided meditations before bed or try these simple techniques to relax your body and mind and have you falling asleep before midnight.
1. 4-7-8 breathing technique
- Inhale through the nose for a count of four.
- Hold breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale through pursed lips for a count of eight.
- Repeat four rounds.
2. The military technique
- Get into a comfortable position.
- Relax your face.
- Drop your shoulders.
- Let your body go limp.
- Clear your mind for 10 seconds.
- Take a deep breath and repeat.
2. Body scan meditation for sleep
Taking some time out in bed to focus on the different areas of your body can help you discover where you are holding stress. It could be this stress that's stopping you from sleeping. The good news? You can do a body scan meditation while tucked up under the duvet. It's one of the best natural cures for insomnia we've tried.
First, give your body a quick scan for any tension or feelings of discomfort. You’ll hopefully be much more relaxed and drift off afterward. Ready to give it a try? Here's how to do a body scan mediation, accord to expert Neil Shah, from The Stress Management Society.
How to carry out a body scan:
- Take a deep breath in: Raise the shoulders towards the ears and hold them raised for a few seconds. You will be able to feel the tensions that may be accumulating on your shoulders. Then take a long, slow breath out and drop the shoulders down. Repeat this several times.
- Place the fingers of both hands at the base of your skull: Apply slow, circular pressure from the base of the skull to the base of the neck.
- Now close your eyes and relax the muscles in the face: Be aware of your eye muscles, your jaw, and your forehead. Place the fingers of both hands on each side of the temples and slowly massage in a circular motion. Repeat several times.
- Finish by cupping your hands over your eye: Hold here for several seconds. This helps to release tension and tightness in the face.
3. ASMR for sleep
While smartphones and blue light are usually the first things sleep experts want to ban from the bedroom to improve your sleep hygiene, ASMR for sleep in the form of videos or audio could help you fall asleep faster.
ASMR works in a similar way to white noise for sleep. “ASMR stands for an autonomous sensory meridian response, which is a tingling sensation that originates from the back of the head and down the spine,” explains life coach Kev Scheepers. “It is a relaxing, almost addictive sensation that can be triggered by listening to particular sounds or watching certain actions. Studies have shown ASMR triggers a state of euphoric relaxation which increases comfort and can help induce deep sleep.”
There are plenty of ASMR sleep and relaxation videos to choose from on YouTube. Plus, you can find ASMR on certain sleep apps.
4. Qigong meditation for sleep
If you're wondering how to get back to sleep when you wake up in the middle of the night, Qigong meditation could be the answer.
“It can actually have serious benefits to your health, as well as your sleep,” says Kev. “Qigong is an alternative form of medicine used to promote the movement of energy in a person’s body and heal a person’s energy field. It has been used for millennia to reduce stress, encourage relaxation and promote better sleep.”
A combination of breathing and movement, this technique will get you out of bed and moving your body in a way that stills your mind. To try this technique, get out of bed and stand tall. "Focus on rhythmic breathing, stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent slightly,” says Kev. “Raise arms parallel to the ground with palms facing down. Allow all parts of the body to relax while continuing to breathe with eyes closed and face relaxed.”
When you slide back into bed your body and mind should be much more relaxed and ready to sleep.
5. Eye exercises for sleep
Just like the muscles in the rest of your body, working out the muscles around your eyes can help tire them out and aid sleep, especially if you've spent all day looking at a computer screen.
There are lots of different eye exercises you can do for eye strain. Author and hypnotherapist Ailsa Frank shares with us one of her top techniques.
“This technique relaxes you and tires your eyelids,” Ailsa says. Here's how to do it:
- Lie comfortably in the dark with your eyes open
- Begin counting backward from 300 in your mind
- Slowly count the numbers, until you feel you can't keep your eyes open any longer
- Then blink rapidly, as fast as you can for 30 seconds, or until your eyelids begin to feel heavy
- When you can’t blink your eyes anymore, close them
- Feel yourself let go as you sink into the bed beneath you and drift off to sleep
When to get out of bed
Tried all the techniques above and find nothing is working? Sometimes it’s best to get out of bed and do something else.
“If you can't sleep after 15 to 20 minutes, apply the quarter of an hour rule,” says Brendan Street, Nuffield Health’s Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing. “Get up, get out of bed and go to a different room and do something not stimulating for 20 to 30 minutes."
This could be reading a book, practicing bedtime yoga, or listening to relaxing music.
"Then return to bed. If you are still unable to get to sleep after 20 to 30 minutes, get up again. Repeat until you sleep," Brendan suggests.
It might seem counterproductive, but it will help in the longer term. “This is hard but necessary,” says Brendan. “If you lie in bed unable to sleep for long periods you start to associate your bed with wakefulness and maybe agitation.”
Failing that, you could consider trying CBD for sleep, sleep tea, or sleep supplements. Unlike prescribed sleeping pills, these products are made from herbal or natural ingredients that promote sleep—such as Valerian, Tryptophan, and Melatonin.
If you're still struggling to sleep at night, seek advice from a medical professional to find the best solution for you.
Faye M Smith is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience in the magazine industry. Her continued work in the area of natural health won her the coveted title of theHealth Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) Journalist of the Year Award 2021.
Currently Acting Health Editor across several brands including woman&home, Woman and Woman’s Own, Faye specialises in writing about mental health, the menopause, and sex and relationships. In fact, having previously been the go-to sex columnist for Now magazine, there isn't much she won't discuss when it comes to women's health. This makes her the best person to review must-buy sex toys, describe how to have a mind-blowing orgasm or explain how to navigate sex in the shower without it ending in a medical emergency.
While not anti-gym, Faye’s fitness routine is more focussed on finding inner balance rather than burning excess calories. An advocate of mindfulness, she loves power breathing, yoga and plenty of walking in nearby woodlands rather than a sweaty HIIT class. Follow her @fayetuned
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